Dandelions blossoming in the sunshine.
Katherine Lee/Daily. Buy this photo.

My series of thoughts on seasons: If summer is a glass of cold lemonade, and winter’s a crossword at candle-light, then fall is a call from a very old friend, and spring is a coffee at sunrise.

Summer is for enjoyment, fall is for ambition and winter is for perseverance. Spring is for rebirth. I’ve always felt that the first signs of spring marked the new year. I don’t care about what the calendars in my life say — New Year’s on the first of January, Rosh Hashanah on the first of Tishrei. Sure, they’re nice celebrations, but I’ve never found them to capture the air of change that reintroduces itself each spring.

Spring is refreshing. It cleans the year’s slate. It breathes in crisp air and excitement. In spring, we reemerge from the spaces we’ve holed up in for months, taking refuge from the winter chill. The warmth thaws our sidewalks and porches and parks, revealing a season of leisure and camaraderie. It’s like stepping out of the shade into a patch of sunlight — suddenly, the world seems just a bit brighter.

Spring is inherently hopeful. Seasonal depression wanes as snow banks recede. Dewy grass marks each morning with new opportunities for rejuvenation and growth. You can hear birds chirping in the trees, inviting the rest of us to join them in their celebration.

Over these past few weeks, I’ve taken to walking around campus. I’ve found that I’m not the only one. On a warmer day, students are out in their yards, spending time with their roommates. Plus, the downtown area is almost back to its former glory: packed sidewalks, busy storefronts and cheery residents. It’s amazing that all it takes to repopulate the streets of Ann Arbor is a day where the thermometer breaks 50 degrees.

One spring is stolen, the next is reclaimed. The contents may differ, but the framework remains. A cycle continues beyond our control, but our goal is to keep things from staying the same.

One unique aspect of this spring in particular is that it’s long overdue. It follows a year of suffering — over half a million U.S. COVID-19 fatalities and counting. One year ago, our spring was ripped from the palm of our hands. Without much information about the unfamiliar threat spreading globally, all we could do was nervously wait for further guidance. And we were forced to sacrifice the hallmark of spring: a peaceful return outdoors.

Anniversaries affect us biologically, even if we don’t realize it at the moment. Thinking back to this time last year, my memories are all tinged with fear. I’m naturally a pretty nervous person, but even my most easy-going peers had little to say in the vein of comfort. That kind of societal trauma is bound to have lasting effects.

Still, the warm weather offered a slight padding to the weight of the oncoming catastrophe. Our social circles were constricted, but I was one of the fortunate few who still had access to the various natural comforts of suburban living and spend time outdoors by myself or with friends. Even a short stay in nature has been clinically shown to improve mental health. For at least the first portion of the pandemic, many were able to use our environment to our advantage.

Once winter hit, though, our environment turned on us. Forced indoors by the harsh Michigan winter, the pandemic felt even more insurmountable. Just a month ago, the country faced one of the worst winter storms in recent history.  And for those experiencing homelessness to whom winter already represented a threat to health and safety, the social distancing complications of the pandemic were an added stress on the underfunded shelter system. But amidst mounting cynicism that the winter would ever subside, the spring returned once again.

The seasons ebb and flow with no regard for societal happenings. Sometimes that means we face devastating disasters, but other times it means that we’re met with a much-needed sunny day. The weather is just a backdrop for our lives, and it’s our responsibility to do what we can. This spring, we’re taking the necessary precautions to remain safe while making up for lost time.

Jovial children stumble through the playground to the field. They greet a patch of dandelions, intentions still concealed. Eventually, their daily pilgrimage presents a prize. The flowers, once a promise, now float wishes through the skies.

Despite all my talk of using spring to forge a new and different path for the future, I often revel in the nostalgia of certain springtime traditions. Every time I step in a fresh patch of mud, I’m transported back to elementary recess in early March. As soon as the bell would ring, my friends and I sprinted past the four square courts and monkey bars, back to the corner of the field where a patch of dandelions grew each year.

I thought they were beautiful, a bright yellow confirmation that spring had sprung. My friends and I picked the petals off one-by-one, musing about whatever it is that occupies elementary-age kids’ dreams. We crafted flower crowns — before they were trendy — and donned our new regalities until the teacher inevitably told us to throw them out.

But the greatest gift of the dandelions came when they shed their yellow petals for a puffy exterior, filled with what my friends and I assumed must be magical properties. We would rush out to the patch and spend the hour blowing the dandelion seeds into the wind. They say that if you could get all the seeds in a single breath, you’d earn a wish.

I didn’t know until years later that all we were really doing was planting new dandelion seeds for the coming season. I felt bad when I first found out, because this is also when I learned that most people (and by that I mean all botanists and gardeners) considered dandelions a weed. But I still don’t believe it. To me, dandelions are never a nuisance. They represent a perpetual promise of past, present and future springtimes all bound together by fleeting wishes from a group of little girls.

Spring enters slowly, taking her time. She whispers, then mumbles, then belts sublime. She’s got my trust and earned my praise. So thank you, spring, forever and always.

All of this is to say I absolutely love the spring. And I love this spring in particular. It’s been a real saving grace as we hopefully near the end of an endless year. In the sun, I feel like a kid again, savoring the peace and joy that a simple jaunt in nature can provide.

Spring can’t solve all the world’s problems, especially with the laundry list we’ve accrued since this time last year. It can, however, release some of the tension that’s built after months of insular anticipation. That is spring’s purpose, and its gift.

I sometimes wish I didn’t live in Michigan, particularly in the winter. But without that frame of reference (or, logistically, that climate), I couldn’t truly appreciate the wonders of springtime. I use this season as a time of reflection, so hypothetically, I wouldn’t be who I am today without the guidance of spring.

This is my love letter to springtime. I thank you for your hospitality, your enlightenment and your dandelions. Thank you for the year’s first late-night bonfires; for Daylight Saving Time and the extra hour of life it offers; for gazpacho and for iced tea; for my birthday, my graduations, both past and future, and all the amazing experiences I can’t yet name.

I love you, spring. I hope you come to love me all the same.